Against journalism: how the press demoralizes society

Consider the following:

  1. A soldier bravely risks death in battle to defend his patria.
  2. A soldier is caught raping a civilian woman.


  1. A father works long hours to provide for his wife and children.
  2. A father is caught selling his daughters as prostitutes.


  1. An elderly couple is assulted by inner-city gang members
  2. An elderly couple is assulted by Franciscan Friars.

What do the 1’s have in common as opposed to the 2’s.  One correct answer is that the 1’s show behavior consistent with social expectations.  “Soldier” and “father” are respected social roles, and in the first two examples, someone is fulfilling those roles properly.  “Gang member” is a recognized but disapproved social role.  We expect gang members to do bad things, although we would prefer that no one took up this role, and we do what we can to stamp it out.  In the 2’s, a social role is being violated.

What else do the 1’s have in common as opposed to the 2’s?  How about this:  the 2’s are news, but the 1’s are not.  Nobody would ever write a story about the daily sacrifices parents make for their children.  It’s only news if they act against their role and abuse their children.  Similarly, the same mugging would be page 1 if the perpetrators are friars but page 10 if they’re lower-class minority youths with criminal backgrounds.  So we have the following definition of “news”

news = violation of social roles

newspaper = a compilation of social role violations

Now consider what a distorted view of the world one gets from newspapers.  You would get the impression that most parents are negligent or abusive, most soldiers are sadists, most friars are violent, and most gang members and drug addicts are innocent saints.  All of this is, of course, exactly backwards.  Having a distorted view of what the average father, priest, drug addict, or whatever is like is bad enough in itself, because it can lead us to make bad decisions.  “I’d better walk down this gang-infested inner city street so that I can avoid having to walk by the rectory!”  That’s not the worst of it, though.  Constant reading of newspapers causes a person to actually associate the vices opposed to a given social role with that social role itself, because that’s all that gets reported.  If the press digs up enough stories about cowardly soldiers and heroic deserters, people will start to associate “soldier” with “coward” and “deserter” with “hero”, even though these associations are exactly backwards.  This would lead people to despise the role of soldier itself.  This in turn will demoralize soldiers and make them cynical, so that in fact they do become less heroic.  Now, the news media is doing this to all of our social roles, so the entire society is being demoralized.

This has got to stop, so for heaven’s sake, put down that newspaper!

One Response

  1. “By denouncing corruption, press publicity spreads it.”
    –Nicolás Gómez Dávila

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